When I was in high school I used to go to Bell Labs in Columbus, Ohio with a buddy of mine, ostensibly to take part in a Scouting activity. There we met with one of their best UNIX guys and, well, learned UNIX. To be honest, it was like getting high school physics lessons from Stephen Hawking. This guy knew the shell inside and out and he challenged us in a way I’d never been challenged before in my High School “computer” classes.
There I essentially learned almost everything that would become the basis of my computing skills – as limited as I eventually forced them to be – and engendered a love of *NIX languages. I don’t think I could say that about any other after school activity I attended.
Wired has some shots from Bell Labs in New Jersey where they invented the transistor and the laser and essentially paved the way for modern communications technologies. Readers: Show me a single company investing in that kind of R&D in the U.S. right now. These guys went to work on the Moon Shot every day while TiVo can’t even make a decent HD DVR.